on Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Contend, an annual apologetics event for high school students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, gathered nearly 300 students from 23 different churches for a one-day conference discussing apologetic issues impacting society today.  

Taking place Saturday, April 27, this year’s Contend event was the second ever of its kind after last year’s inaugural conference.   

Jamie Dew, president of NOBTS and Leavell College, spoke to the importance of teaching apologetics to the next generation.  

“Training students to think apologetically has always been important, but it’s especially important now because in our broader cultural landscape, every problem we face, every fight, is an ideological fight,” Dew said. “It’s just vital that we really make sure we’re doing what we can do to help our students think about their faith and then defend their faith.  

“Culturally speaking, we’re in a different moment than we were even 15-20 years ago. Christianity is under attack very directly. It’s no longer subtle. It’s no longer implied. Our culture largely today sees our faith as evil or problematic. Even in middle school and high school they’re (students) already facing this. If that’s the climate that we’re in today, then I think it’s more important than ever before that we’re training people apologetically.” 

Dew commented on the unique nature of the conference’s focus on apologetics.  

“It’s a unique conference because most youth conferences are evangelistic in nature,” Dew said.  

“Which is fantastic. I preach and speak at a lot of those types of conferences. But there’s very few conferences that step beyond some kind of evangelistic appeal and actually sit down and start doing the heavy lifting of Christian thought. I don’t know of many conferences in the United States that are A, doing that, and B, bring to bear the faculty and the quality of instruction that we are bringing to them. It’s a very unique type of conference that we can offer to students and their youth pastors.” 

In addition to Dew, plenary speakers for the conference included science and religion scholar Melissa Travis and Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla.  

Dew opened the conference with a lecture on the existence of God. Inserra spoke on thinking biblically about success and ambition, while Travis spoke about the un-livability of the atheistic worldview. 

Breakout sessions during the conference included topics such as: 

  • Dealing with Doubt  
  • Science & Faith  
  • Gender & Sexuality  
  • Evil & Suffering  
  • Can We Trust the Bible? 
  • Cults & Other Religions 

Registered attendance for the conference was 288, an increase from last year’s inaugural event. States represented at the event include Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.  

Matt James, vice president for enrollment for NOBTS and Leavell College, said he was “thrilled” by the growth of the conference and is excited for youth groups to learn more about apologetics at future Contend events.   

“In a world that is increasingly averse to the Christian worldview, our hope is that the Contend conference provides rich biblical and theological teaching, so that students can be confident in their faith as they take a stand for Jesus,” James said. “Our hope is that student ministry leaders will continue to make it a staple in their annual calendars and join us for years to come.” 

“We hope that students and their leaders were able to see firsthand that NOBTS and Leavell College is a place that God is using to train up a generation of servants to take the gospel into some of the hardest and darkest places in the world.”  

Dew echoed the sentiment, saying he hopes the event helped attendees learn more about the mission of NOBTS. 

“I believe in every single youth group across the southeast, that there’s that one, two, three or four students who God’s called to ministry and they are the kinds of students that we exist to serve. I’m hopeful that through conferences like this, youth pastors and even those students will recognize there is something different about Leavell College.”